Willing to back down

President Obama said he’ll pull back the “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus package after the European Union threatened a trade war, such as the one that proved so disastrous during the Great Depression. He also stepped away from nominating two tax evaders for administrative posts, including his good friend Tom Daschle for health czar.

That’s good. Being willing to back down when you are wrong is a good character trait. Of course, backing down when you are right but just encounter opposition is not so good. So far, the president seems to be standing up to the left wing of his own party. What he does when he encounters the Russians will be telling.

What’s the difference between being willing to back down and weakness? What’s the difference between standing on firm conviction and stubbornness? This is a lesson not just for presidents for all of us.

Stimulus bill stymied in the Senate

Senate Lacks Votes to Pass Stimulus – washingtonpost.com:

Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.

That’s a welcome surprise. I’m sure the Democrats won’t kill it, but maybe it could be made a little less noxious.

American Idol connection

As the aesthetics czar at Patrick Henry College, a request to allow a particular music group on campus came across my computer. I’m not a big fan of contemporary Christian music, but no, I was told, this group isn’t really like that. It was a family singing group called the MacIntyre Family Singers. One of those country gospel groups that is wholesome but corny? No, I was told, this family performs serious music, and they are really good. Well, I said, let them come. But then a few weeks ago, they cancelled. It turns out one of their members made it to Hollywood on American Idol. It’s Scott MacIntyre–the blind guy–who, last night, advanced to the next round. He might go far.

Any early predictions or evaluations? I was impressed with the blonde hippie orphan Rose. Her voice played around the beats and played off the melody of “Dock in the Bay” in a jazzy, different-than-the-others way that was quite good.

My granddaughter

I’ve got to show you this new picture of our granddaughter Elizabeth:


Stimulus bill forbids $$ for religion

Religious Discrimination Embedded in Stimulus Bill| Christianpost.com

Republicans, Christians Blast Contraceptive Spending in Stimulus Plan
The legislative team at American Center for Law and Justice has noticed that a provision in Section 803 of the measure contains language that would prohibit schools that accept funding for the renovation of university facilities from allowing religious activity to take place at those facilities. . . .

The provision reads: “Grants awarded under this section shall be for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction and research,” according to ACLJ, which specializes in protecting religious liberties.

Funds may not be used for “modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities -(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.”

So Duke University can’t remodel a building in which part of its Department of Divinity is housed? Our church has an outreach at the student union of a public university. Does that mean the university can’t take the bailout to fix up the union? Why add such a provision?

The leap of unfaith & more from Updike

Thanks to Mollie Z. Hemingway for harvesting some other great John Updike quotes from various newspaper obituaries:

”I remember the times when I was wrestling with these issues that I would feel crushed. I was crushed by the purely materialistic, atheistic account of the universe,” Updike told The Associated Press during a 2006 interview.

”I am very prone to accept all that the scientists tell us, the truth of it, the authority of the efforts of all the men and woman spent trying to understand more about atoms and molecules. But I can’t quite make the leap of unfaith, as it were, and say, ‘This is it. Carpe diem (seize the day), and tough luck.”’

. . . . .

“When I haven’t been to church in a couple of Sundays I begin to hunger for it and need to be there,” he said, standing at a podium in front of the altar, against a backdrop of Byzantine-style mosaics and dressed in a gray suit befitting one of America’s elder statesmen of letters. “It’s not just the words, the sacraments. It’s the company of other people, who show up and pledge themselves to an invisible entity.”

. . . . . . .

[From Rabbit, Run, the Lutheran Pastor Fritz Kruppenbach telling off the Episcopal priest, Rev. Eccles, for meddling in other people's business]: “When on Sunday morning then, when we go before their faces, we must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ,” he tells a disconcerted Eccles. “Make no mistake. There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil’s work.”

Do any of you Updike fans have suggestions for good books of his to start with? The Rabbit series? ‘Month of Sundays”? Are there some that don’t have quite so much, you know, sex? (I’d suggest the short stories.)

Meanwhile, I’m intrigued with “the leap of unfaith.” I have noticed that atheists often describe their moment of rejection in the same terms that Christians often do when describing their conversion.